Since 2016, I've been the primary travel partner for my kids - now ages 20 and 17 - as they seek to find their perfect fit for the next chosen step in their educational journey - college. From coast to coast, from north to south, we've aligned our travel with visits to family and friends. The time in between those stops - traveling by air or on lengthy road trips - contains inarguably some of the most stress and angst-ridden time one spends with their child, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. That time with my kids is simply priceless.
My son, now a junior at his choice College of Wooster in Ohio, semi-enthusiastically journeyed to the Pacific Northwest to see schools in Washington and Oregon, traveled south to see schools in Georgia, and then settled on a school in the far midwest (we'll call it west-northeast as it's hella far from Colorado and makes for an emotionally jarring road trip. During all of our travel there was a healthy mix of quiet disconnected time and disconnected teen. He didn't speak often of what he really wanted from a school, and was more apt to react to what he experienced on campus visits. Let's face it - 16,17, 18 - it's still so young to feel the pressure of the rest of your life. As it turns out, his school choice has worked well for him if not in the world's most fascinating location. He's a contemplative soul and has a contemplative campus to learn about himself and the world near and far. I learned more about his need for space, his need for talk, and his need for support during these trips.
On our last trip back to Ohio this summer so he could spend the summer on campus, we had one hour of angry silence following a normal pattern of mothering questions. If there is anything we've learned from road trips its that too much silence can suck as much as too much talk. My son is the one who finally broke the silence, asked for the conversation to work out the issues, and afterward we both felt better for having spent the time and the stressful moments to understand each other's points of view.
Now it's my daughter's turn to find her next stop. My journeys with her have been similarly focused on schools around the country, and I've had great getaway girls trips with her, too. We've enjoyed trips to Santa Fe, New Mexico, San Diego, Seattle, and Massachusetts with trips coming up to Pennsylvania and Hawaii. What I've learned from traveling with my son I can generally apply to trips with my daughter, realizing I've learned more than they have about how they want information and how they best deliver it. Communication on the road, in the air, it's all worth the stress and angst. In the end, we have each other and an experience to put in the memory bank.
Deirdre Oss is a veteran city planner, mother of two awesome teenagers, and wife to an amazing husband and travel partner. A city girl for generations, her home and heart are in Denver, Colorado with family and friends across the country and the pond. Over two decades working in city planning provided the foundation for her to explore different cities through the lens of community planning to create places for people to thrive in daily life and beyond. This perspective allows her to travel with an eye toward local economy, transit, and special neighborhoods that appeal to both residents and tourists.